The secret of our success? Our people, no doubt. A company can’t achieve excellence in process and technology without people. So, the team is our most important asset… the intelligence and culture of our team.
– Andy Kulakowski, President and CEO of Fresche

Fresche is the world’s largest modernization and management company for applications in the IBM i (formerly AS400) market. With 22,000 existing clients and 130,000 potential clients to acquire in this 30-year-old market, Fresche demonstrates that their solutions, technologies and skills allow them to meet the current needs of the sector.

“The IBM i community is currently facing the challenge of aging skills,” says the President and CEO Andy Kulakowski. “There are many baby boomers close to retirement, bringing with them the expertise necessary to manage the application and continue its improvements, and that’s where Fresche can help,” he explains.

Fresche helps clients understand, analyze and document their IBM i environment and develop the modernization or transformation strategy they need to leverage the significant investment they’ve made in this environment. This enables these companies to achieve their growth objectives.

With all the tools required to adapt each component of an application, such as the user interface, code, development environment and databases, Fresche gives the application the ability to integrate the latest technologies, such as the mobile tablet and the web.

Taking back their own destiny

Without pretension, but obviously gratified by the wonderful Quebec narrative initiated by Fresche 40 years ago, Andy claims that the adventure, year after year, remains as exciting. “As I’m sure you can imagine, a company that has existed for four decades has been through a lot, and we’ve done a bit of everything,” he laughs.

There is, however, one element of Fresche’s trajectory of which they are particularly proud. This part of the story began in the 1990s. Due to their operational success and their own fruitful business acquisitions, the publicly-traded company became the purchase target of a very large American company. Faced with an offer too significant to refuse, the Montreal company accepted, quickly realizing that the deal did not represent a core and strategic element of the company in the long term. “So many American companies have acquired great Quebec companies, only to slowly extract their value and eventually close them,” remarks Andy.

Fresche’s management team therefore decided to bank on their vision of sustainability, having everything they needed to ensure several generations of leaders. They informed the buyer that they would not allow the nature of Fresche to be distorted, and after four years of negotiations, with the support of various investors from their community, the management was able to buy back Fresche in 2010.

Even with 30 years of existence, Fresche still considered themselves to be something of a startup and have since implemented an effective strategy that has enabled them to ensure an internal growth rate of approximately 20% from year to year, growing from 40 to 415 employees. “The company is now in a unique position and represents a powerful force in the market,” asserts Andy.

The passion that drives Fresche

Fresche achieved this distinct position by opting for the modernization of existing technologies as their main service to businesses, having been inspired to do so by their clients. “When we asked clients why they chose Fresche to carry out their project, it was never because we had this or that technical skill or combination of technical skills,” recounts the president. “Instead, what set us apart significantly from our competitors was the fact that we were really well-versed and were highly motivated to understand legacy systems, IT environments as a whole, and how to transform existing environments to make them more modern.”

Fresche’s directors, as entrepreneurs, have thus chosen to contribute to the success of extremely sustainable companies by modernizing “old” technologies – a very wise choice since what is being developed and implemented today will obviously be considered old technologies within 5 to 7 years…

“We believe that our future holds great opportunities for growth, career development and employee experience, and we’re very excited to see what comes,” concludes Andy.

Source: Mélanie Pilon, writer for the Star Tech Vitrine


23May 2018

When we changed our business model, which was a really major shift towards a new adventure, I didn’t know of any other company in Quebec City that had adopted this SaaS model. There were so few players we could consult to find out how best to go about it, that we decided to design and test a prototype ourselves.
– Johanne Devin, CEO and Co-founder of WebSelf

WebSelf provides website creation tools that are simple, powerful and affordable, or free, to more than 3 million users in over 165 countries. Offering maximum functionality to people who want to develop their own website without having strong technological skills, the platform makes it easy for them, whether setting up a showcase site or an online store. “Even though it’s a standardized environment, we offer great flexibility and many features that can satisfy at least 99% of our customers’ needs,” indicates Johanne.

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09May 2018

Our clients, such as festivals like Francofolies de Montréal or Igloo Fest, appreciate not only that our solution saves them time and money, but also that they know exactly where their festivalgoers come from. Are they only in town for the two days of the event or are they extending their stay to discover the city? How many nights? Alone or accompanied, and by whom? In short, it’s all this data that represents a compelling advantage for our partners.
– Andrew Lockhead, CEO and Co-founder of Stay22

Stay22, an aggregator that lists nearly 6.5 million properties in 200 countries, helps travellers find the best accommodation options near the upcoming events they plan to attend. “We’ve targeted the niche of event management platforms, business conferences, festivals and more, which sets us apart in the huge online travel solutions market,” says Andrew.

Through agreements with partners such as Airbnb, but also with systems like Travelport and HotelsCombined, Stay22 offers visitors a hub that bringsall search resources together in one place, greatly simplifying the planning experience. Everything is adjusted on an interactive map that integrates directly with the event organizer’s website, ticket office or other online destination where users find themselves.

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02May 2018

Up until 2010, we often wondered if we wanted to invest in product development. Like many companies at the time, we were focussing on services in order to finance potential products. In the end, we decided to let go of the idea of designing products, because our service offering was really solid. After that, our growth curve was impressive, turning our 23-person team into the 150-person organization we are today.
– Stéphane Rouleau, President and Co-founder of Spiria

When I ask Stéphane to describe Spiria and their value proposition, he explains that the management team is actually trying to update their definition: “After 15 years of existence, it’s important to revisit it… simply said, we’re a digital solutions firm. Our clients call upon us to solve the digital components of their problems, due to lack of knowledge, resources or time on their part. In co-creation with them, we develop the best technology to optimize their activities.”

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